Different Computation Options on Azure Machine Learning

In a later article we discussed on different data storage methods we can use with Azure Machine learning. In this article am gonna briefly discuss different computation options we have with Azure ML.

Since computation power is one of the key advantage we get from cloud based machine learning, choosing correct computation resource for our machine learning experiments is important.

AzureML offers 4 main compute types.

01. Compute instances –

If you don’t wanna spend the time in setting up your local computer for doing the ML experiments or you wanna leverage GPUs or powerful CPUs for doing your experiments, Azure Compute instances offer fully managed virtual machines loaded with most of the essential frameworks /libraries for performing machine learning and data science experiments. When you using AzureML notebooks (jupyter notebook instance attached for AzureML), compute instance is the place where the jupyter notebook is running.

Different methods can be used to access compute instances

You can access the compute instances using different methods. Accessing through Jupyter notebooks and JupyterLab is the all time favourite of most of the data scientists. If you are a R folk, you can use Rstudio with the compute instances. Accessing the compute instance through SSH is really useful (you may have to enable SSH access when creating the compute instance) in occasions where you have to install custom packages and such for the compute instance. (The machine is ubuntu based and you can use all bash scripts there!)

Basically compute instance can be defined as a virtual machine fully loaded with data science and machine learning essentials which you can use right out of the box.

02. Compute clusters –

Compute clusters are different from compute instances with their ability of having one or more compute nodes. These compute nodes can be created with our desired hardware configurations.

Why having more than one node? That comes with the ability of using parallel processing for computations. If you are going do to hyperparameter tuning/ GPU based complex computations/ several machine learning runs at once you may have to create a compute cluster.

If you are running Automated Machine Learning expriment with AzureML, you must have a compute cluster to perform computations.

When selecting the node configurations, you can either go with CPU based nodes or GPU based nodes. GPU based nodes (NC type etc.) is bit pricy. If you are not using GPU based computing, don’t waste your dollars by just creating a compute cluster with some fancy configs.

One other key setting is ‘Virtual machine priority’. If you are ok with pushing your experiment to the cloud and get the result without a hurry, you can go with low priority nodes, which will save you a lot of dollars rather than using dedicated VMs. No harm is gonna happen for the experimentation accuracy and such.

03. Inference clusters –

There are two options to deploy Azure machine learning web services as REST endpoints. 1) Use ACI (Azure Container Instances) 2) Use AKS (Azure Kubernetes Service)

Deploying the REST web service on ACI is good for testing and development uses and AKS would be the to-go for production level large deployments. You can configure the AKS cluster according to your need through AzureML as well as from the Azure portal. These AKS clusters are pretty much similar for AKS clusters you worked in any other Azure based deployments.

04. Attached compute –

Azure machine learning is not limited for doing computations on compute clusters. You can attach Azure Databricks, Data Lake Analytics, HDInsight or a prevailing VM as a compute for your workspace. Keep in your mind that Azure machine learning only supports virtual machines running Ubuntu. These compute targets will not be managed by Azure Machine Learning itself. So you may have to perform some additional steps to make sure they are compatible with your experiments.

Choosing the correct compute resource is a key component in the success of developing machine learning experiments. On the other hand, bad computation choices may leave you with huge Azure bills! 😀

There’s no hard bound rules on selecting different compute options for your machine learning life cycle. Just make sure you use the right tool at the right time.

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